February 21, 2010: Gospel Power Breaks Temptation

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we begin Lent we continue our special focus on all the temptations that come our way. Remind us today how You have already faced up to every single one of them, and how You have overcome them all! You did it by applying the power of Your gospel strength to them all and then living out that power. Cause us to go and do likewise. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION!

TEXT: Luke 4: 1-13

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

The alcoholic is at a party and drinks are freely flowing around the room. Someone offers them one. What should they do? Internet porn is only 2 or 3 mouse-clicks away at any time. That person is bored and lonely. What should they do? The jobless father and mother talk over their mortgage situation over after the kids have gone to bed. Their conversation begins to devolve into a bitter session of envy over the apparent “good luck” of their siblings in avoiding such problems. What should they do to counter it?

Temptation can take on a lot of forms. It’s with us daily. And it undermines our faith and destroys our good cheer as Christians. It also alienates us from each other and most of all from our God. How do you handle it? How should you handle it? Today’s lesson gives us Godly insight into this age-old struggle within our heart between good and evil. And as we ponder our text, pay careful attention to how:

GOSPEL POWER BREAKS TEMPTATION

I

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he has tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.”

Jesus had just been baptized by John in the river Jordan. Just like at your baptism, He also received special power from the Spirit. Likewise, when you attend church and have your sins forgiven by Christ, or when you feed on His body and blood in the Supper, the Spirit strengthens you as well. At such times we revel in His strength. We don’t give much thought to temptations. But we should. For the devil always comes when least expected. In this case, he preyed on Christ when it appeared His physical power was also at a low ebb due to lack of food. Always remember that when you’ve been lacking spiritual food in your diet, Satan will also try to take advantage of you and play to your weaknesses. The point is: never let down your guard!!!

Fasting is usually a time to cleanse the body of fleshly impurities and also cleanse the mind of worthless worry. It’s a time to focus on what’s truly vital for life—your relationship with God. That’s what Christ was doing during those 40 days in the desert. Christ, the true man, our humble human brother, was stripping away the human pressures upon Him in order to revitalize Him for the purity of His mission—saving our souls. Satan thinks he’s sly, coming to Him and playing on His physical hunger. But, he’s actually a fool! For the power of the Gospel, found in, with, and through Christ, breaks his temptation. “Man does not live on bread alone.”

II

Drugs, lust, cheating, stealing, or simply being enviously ungrateful—temptations are always with us. That fact alone should remind you and me that we were born with original sin and we cannot escape its destruction influence while still on this earth. Jesus was born without human sin. And yet He willingly took on all our sins in order to triumph over them and thus provide us with a Godly victory, saving our souls in the process. As the Bible says: “He was tempted in every way like we are, yet He was without sin.”

Unfortunately for us, Satan doesn’t take “NO” for an answer. He comes a second time promising Christ the world and thus trying to feed His inner ego. Who of us hasn’t given in to such emotional ego stroking? Watch 10 minutes of “American Idol” and you’ll see the yearning for such ego-centrism played out before your very eyes. Likewise, we see it at every Olympic event, every sports event, every office/work advancement and raise given. We humans are egocentric. Satan knew that. But, it didn’t work on Jesus! For He wasn’t about Himself, He was all about saving us by giving His entire being and life to us. That’s the message of the Gospel. That’s the message of His death on the cross. And so, Christ Who is the Gospel in the flesh, broke the power of this temptation by using a Gospel truth against the devil. “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”

III

The longer you live, the more you realize that Satan never gives up. Instead, with age, his temptations change their spots. That’s why, when we triumph over him, we cannot grow complacent and think we’re all done with him. Never forget: he’s never done with you.

So, as faithful Christians grow in their faith, grow in their knowledge of God’s Word, and grow in their usage of it, Satan tries the same ploy on us that he did on Jesus. He attempts to trick us by using God’s Word against us. Of course, the devil always misquotes or misuses God’s truth. But he trusts that our memory isn’t infallible. So, he tries to plant doubt in our minds as to what God says and thus mislead us.

The final temptation is an amalgamation of this approach. Satan transports Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, 300 ft above the ground. Then he tries to use the words of Ps. 91 to get Christ to bow to his will. But, once again, Jesus Who is the personification of the Gospel uses that power to break this temptation. “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And so, finally, the devil leaves for a while…..

Of course, we all know that Jesus was doing all this for us. His breaking of Satan’s temptations was done in our place, is transferred to us through faith, and therefore cleanses us in God’s sight when we fall down on the job. Thus, this is the essence of the Gospel applied and given to us through faith.

But never forget, this story also provides us with an example to follow in order to avoid a huge amount of heartache. For when we really do apply and rely on the power of the Gospel; when we really do remember those confirmation passages and use them in our minds; the truth of the Gospel will always send Satan packing. For the power of the Gospel is the same today as it was then. And that’s because the heart and soul of the Gospel—Jesus Christ—is the same! Next time the devil comes calling to your door, remember that glorious truth and live it! Amen